Master storyteller still has the touch

Bill Cosby entertained the crowd from this chair on stage at the Hart Auditorium Thursday night at Brigham Young University-Idaho. EMMA FORREST/STANDARD JOURNAL

Went and saw my old friend the other night. Sat right in his living room with the rest of his few thousand friends.

Like the rest of you, I focused directly on him as he spoke for two hours. Very few people can command that kind of attention from me.

Not with Bill Cosby. For the last few weeks, I wondered if the master storyteller still had it, if advancing years would take a toll on his game.

It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t the case.

Soon after Miles Blaine, Center Stage student director, offered the customary opening prayer given at Brigham Young University-Idaho events, he walked off stage with co-host Meg Shaver. He wasn’t ready for Cosby to bring both of them back on stage.

“He just grabbed me and said, ‘come back up here with me,’” Blaine said later.

Bill walked on stage to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Dressed in a white BYU-I sweatshirt with the words “Hello Friend” in rainbow colors, Cosby motioned for Blaine and Shaver to stand next to him.

Surely not accustomed to having somebody open his act with a prayer, he still found an opportunity for comedy.

It seems the night before that the crowd of mostly students had said “amen” with much more fervor, he told the crowd.

As for Thursday’s audience, “That was pitiful,” he said.

After instructing the two next to him to say, “In Thy name,” the repentant audience responded with a more thunderous amen.

And so went the theme for much of the night. While Cosby focused on familiar themes of aging, marriage and family, much of the night included a religious tone.

It’s like he knew where he was or something.

Atheists would be wise to leave themselves some wiggle room, Cosby said while sitting in a comfortable chair with a large bottle of spring water and a box of tissues next to him.

“You can’t get in by saying, ‘I was just kidding.’”

Only Cosby could spend nearly an hour mining comic gold from the story of Adam and Eve.

When the audience, made up of mostly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, incorrectly referred to the “tree of knowledge” as the “tree of life” during the story of Adam and Eve, Cosby hung his head in his hands in exaggerated fashion.

“Is the president of the college still here?” he asked looking off stage.

Cosby, with his hair completely white now, showed his usual impeccable comic timing, facial expressions and delivery.

He marveled at the logic of Adam and Eve going into “God’s garden” to “hide from God.”

“Obviously the fruit had not kicked in,” Cosby said.

Perhaps what makes him so impressive is his ability to identify with the common man.

In short, he gets me.

When he spoke of wives leaving notes everywhere before they leave, I thought of the notes on boxes still piled high in my living room — with instructions from my wife not to open them until she got there.

When he talked about the plight of the father of the bride, I smiled to myself, for that had been me just a few short weeks ago.

“The house is not my house,” Cosby said. “I live there, but it’s not my house.”

In the end, I was glad to be in his house. Even if it was for only two hours, I was a better person for it.

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